• State Dept Ducks Oversight on Iraq Reconstruction Projects

    January 29, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    The Washington Post has an important article online and in print criticizing the World’s Most Expensive Embassy (c) for choosing to not provide a complete list of all the projects undertaken as part of the reconstruction of Iraq.

    “After eight years, we still don’t have a full account of what it was we provided the Iraqis,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the US special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said in the article. “There was no unity of command, no unity of effort.” The inventory listed 5,289 projects valued at about $15 billion as of June 30, 2011, according to auditors. Bowen said there were actually tens of thousands of projects valued at approximately $40 billion.

    In response, the World’s Most Expensive Embassy (c) in Baghdad said they had negotiated an agreement with Iraq so its government could “focus its limited resources” on large capital projects. Embassy officials also cited bookkeeping of previous agencies and said the auditors’ criticisms failed to recognize that Iraq already has assumed more control over projects.

    Of course this is all, respectfully of course, bullshit.

    Everything funded via CERP (Commanders Emergency Response Program, Army money) is fully documented in a database. Same for everything paid for by State via their QRF (Quick Response Funds), it is all documented in an online database. Every State project carried a unique number (most projects referenced in my book We Meant Well include these unique numbers as references). I am not sure what the other two sources mentioned in the Post refer to, but one of them is likely USAID and they also maintained a database. If the fourth source is US Department of Agriculture, who spent a lot of money in Iraq, those are also well-documented. Any subcontractors hired were required to report on their projects.

    So if this information is available for all of the effort of hitting the “print” button, why conceal it?

    State most likely wants to hide a lot of its waste and mismanagement, as well as bury the many smaller projects that “walked away” as the Iraqis simply sold them off, dismantled them or noticed that what the US claimed was built or bought never really existed. State has no interest in having some of its more comical, stupid and pointless efforts exposed, as hinted at on Foreign Policy.com.

    State continues to insist no independent agency, such as SIGIR, has jurisdiction to oversee its work in Iraq. Does anyone still wonder why State insists no oversight applies?

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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq

    Dollar Here, a Dollar There…

    May 3, 2011 // Comments Off on Dollar Here, a Dollar There…

    stripper with money We lacked a lot of things in Iraq: flush toilets, the comfort of family members nearby and of course adult supervision, strategic guidance and common sense. The one thing we did not lack was money. There was money everywhere. You couldn’t walk around a corner without stumbling over bales of money; the place was lousy with it.

    Sent to me by a fellow State Department PRT Alumnus:

    The best one or worst project of mine was a fruit processing facility that the Iraqi’s did not want, but members of our econ team and the military were pushing, $644,000 worth. At the PRDC meeting, I leaned over to the Army CERP manager and told him we needed to cancel this project, it was too much money and they did not even want it. His response was, “Its not that much money.”

    Ah, it was good to be rich.

    In my 23 years working for the State Department, we never had enough money. We were always being told to “do more with less.” Now there was literally more money than we could spend. It was weird. We’d be watching the news from home about foreclosures while signing off on tens of thousands of dollars for stuff in Iraq.

    The most my group spent was $2.5 million on a poultry plant. I tell the story in my book in a chapter called “Chicken Shit.” Second place was a million bucks for milk processing. That chapter is called “Milking the US Government” (we couldn’t afford better writers, sorry).

    Some things never changed: I’d watch billions of dollars being spent on failing water and sewer projects with nary any accountability while having $25 cell phone card reimbursements denied by the Embassy cashier for lack of a paper receipt.

    We wondered among ourselves whether we shouldn’t be running a PRT in Detroit or New Orleans instead of Baghdad. Nahhh…

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    Posted in Embassy/State, Iraq